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Amazing Paralympic runners beat Rio Olympic gold standard

By Jack de Menezes

Published 14/09/2016

Fast track: (From left) silver medallist Tamiru Demisse of Ethiopia, gold medallist Abdellatif Baka of Algeria and bronze medallist Henry Kirwa of Kenya produced 1,500m times good enough to have won gold at last month’s Olympics
Fast track: (From left) silver medallist Tamiru Demisse of Ethiopia, gold medallist Abdellatif Baka of Algeria and bronze medallist Henry Kirwa of Kenya produced 1,500m times good enough to have won gold at last month’s Olympics

A disabled middle-distance runner has shattered the 1,500m world record after winning gold at the Rio Paralympic Games, beating Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz by more than 1.7 seconds.

Abdellatif Baka of Algeria won the T13 1,500m final late on Monday night in a stunning performance that not only set a new Paralympic world record, but stands as the fastest 1,500m time ever recorded by an able-bodied or disabled athlete.

The feat was made all the more stunning given the fact that the second, third and fourth-placed finishers all recorded times faster than Centrowicz, meaning that four Paralympic athletes had run times fast enough to win gold had they competed in the Olympic Games.

Baka clinched gold in the T13 class where athletes suffer from visual impairment. There are two other classes for visually impaired athletes in the form of T11 and T12, with the lower numbers indicating a more severe impairment.

Baka crossed the line in a time of three minutes and 48.29 seconds to win gold, with American Olympic champion Centrowicz only managing three minutes and 50.00 seconds in Rio last month.

Ethiopia's Tamiru Demisse claimed silver with a time of three minutes and 48.49 seconds, with Kenya's Henry Kirwa taking bronze in three minutes and 49.59 seconds. Incredibly, Baka's brother, Fouad Baka, finished fourth in a time of three minutes and 49.84 seconds to also finish faster than Centrowicz.

"It wasn't easy to get this gold medal," Baka said after his Paralympic success. "I've been working one or two years non-stop and it's been very, very hard for me."

In wheelchair basketball, Northern Ireland's Katie Morrow has a semi-final to look forward to tomorrow after Team GB overcame China in the last-eight of the women's competition.

Morrow came on as a replacement in the quarter-final, which Great Britain comfortably won 57-38.

They are already guaranteed a better finish than at the London Games in 2012, but will have their sights set on the gold after yesterday's performance.

Meanwhile, there was disappointment for Dungannon shooter Philip Eaglesham, who finished 30th in the qualifying round of the SH2 Mixed 10m Air Rifle Prone.

Only the top eight from a field of 34 men and women qualified, with Eaglesham's 626.3 points well short of the 634.1 that was required to reach the final.

"I'm happy that I got here and competed but not happy with my overall performance," Eaglesham said after the competition.

"At the end of the day maybe I beat myself or the occasion beat me but, for only starting international competition last October, I'm not even a year in and can't be that upset in one way.

"A bit of fatigue and lack of concentration affected me and probably the whole occasion itself. Right now I'd like to do it all again but I only had one shot at it today."

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